How the Rest of Europe Thinks the UK Will Do at Eurovision
Nothing is a given at Eurovision, one British fan tells me, just hours after I touch down in Lisbon to watch the campest competition on the continent firsthand. And he's right: since its foundation in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest has been full of surprises: for instance, despite our now obsession with the Swedish band, the UK gave no points to ABBA when they competed in 1974.
One thing that does appear to be a dead cert, however, is that the United Kingdom probably won’t win this year, despite the irritatingly catchy offer from our entry, SuRi. The bookies have us as rank outsider. With the spectre of Brexit looming over us and the penchant of our politicians to blame all our woes on Eastern European migrants, the United Kingdom hasn't been doing much to ingratiate itself with our nearest neighbours. It was all the way back in 2009 that the UK managed to sing its way into the top five, and over two decades since Britain clinched the top spot.
Yesterday, we joined some of the, let's say, dedicated fans in Lisbon to find out what they make of the UK's chances at Eurovision 2018, and what they and their fellow countrymen think of us generally. I had intended to find a diverse range of voices, but turns Eurovision attracts mostly white gay men – who'd have guessed!
Anders Hansen, Denmark
"For years now, the UK hasn’t really put any thought into Eurovision – it’s like you don’t care. The songs haven’t been that professional for a bunch of years, but this year it’s a good one.
"We like to travel to the UK from Denmark: to shop, to party and have fun. When I think of the UK I think of drunk girls and bad teeth. A lot of Danish dentists travel to the UK and work there for a few years because then they actually get to try to pull out teeth. At the club last night there were three girls who were so drunk, and as soon as I saw them I knew they were British. To their credit, they just kept on drinking for hours. Brexit will definitely have an impact on how Denmark votes tomorrow; it'll hurt your economy and make it more expensive for us to come to visit."
Maria Liebenrejn, Sweden
"This isn't my first Eurovision. I like SuRi, but I like all of the United Kingdom's participants always. Do you remember Blue? I love Blue. Blue are the best. They should have won [when they performed at Eurovision 2011], but they made it into the top five, so that's OK.* Do you remember Engelbert Humperdinck? He was one of the best – it wasn't fair how badly he did.
"People from the United Kingdom have very nice clothes, and they’re very friendly – they want to take photos with me! You’re a very friendly people, you’re gentlemen, although quite pedantic. Friendly pedants. But I only have good experience with the Brits. And Brexit? Well, you don’t get anything good from being in the European Union."
*Blue came eleventh in their Eurovision year.
Matthias Muller, Germany
"I want Germany to win this year. I love SuRi and I love the song, and I hope the United Kingdom will be better than in the last years, but she won’t win.
"Our relationship with Britain now is complicated, though. I don't understand the British people. I think the United Kingdom is in Europe, you belong to Europe. I don’t know how much of an impact it’ll have on the voting in Germany, though. Anyway, I’m just here for the sightseeing, the partying and the eating."
Max Berezinskiy, Russia
"I've been to five Eurovisions, so I know what I’m talking about. I really like the UK's song – it's very catchy. Hold on, I'll sing you some of it. She’s amazing, and very pretty. Nobody knows who might win – anything is possible.
"Nobody here is thinking about politics, we’re only thinking about culture. Nobody knows who took the Novichok [nerve agents] to the United Kingdom, but don’t worry, we don't have any Novichok on us! When we think about Britain in Russia, we just ask, 'Would you like a cup of tea?' And the Queen, of course. We don’t really think about you too much, to be honest; we’re not in the European Union and we have our own problems. We think about our problems, not yours."
Solrun Steinsdottin, Iceland
"I've heard the UK’s song this year – it’s very typical of what the UK sends. It’s not that good, but it does stick in your head. It’s about world peace and being nice to one another, like for the last 30 years.
"Everyone loves going to London in Iceland – we love the UK. That said, a lot of people in Iceland have opinions about Brexit – I think it's the wrong decision, and all the promises made to Brexit voters aren't being kept. They were tricked. I know elderly people who thought they were voting for something, but then they realised way too late that it wasn’t as they understood. If there was a second referendum there’d be different results. I don’t think people in Iceland will vote for your song – but that’s only because it’s not a great song."
Jon Himimaz, Spain
"I like the UK's entry this year – she seems nice – but it's like a 2001 entry. It’s a typical Eurovision song, so I don’t think it’ll do much. We know that the UK has some serious musical superstars, but when it comes to Eurovision you usually send crap artists. We don’t understand why. I have some British friends, and they make fun of Eurovision.
"There are mixed feelings about Brits in Spain right now – we live on tourism, and in the Canary Islands, where I live, we make a lot of money from you. You’re all very polite and educated, unless you’re drunk. But then there’s a lot of talk about people supporting Brexit and what that means for us. There’s a lot of Spanish people in the UK – why do you hate us? But maybe that’s more outside London. What’s going to happen after Brexit? Will you still be in Eurovision?"
"I’ve not heard the UK’s entry, so I don’t really have an opinion. We’ll give you some points, though; we always do. Even if the song isn’t good we’ll give you some points. We always do.
"The UK is close to Malta – we speak English. I don’t agree with Brexit, though – it’s a bad idea. It won’t change how we vote in Eurovision, though. It has nothing to do with Eurovision. You’ve made a big mistake."
Annie Harris, Australia
"I've not listened to your entry, but I hope it's better than in previous years. We used to support the UK in Eurovision, but we won’t now we’re in it, we’re going to vote for Australia*.
"Britain is alright, I guess. There are plenty of Aussies who go there. Eurovision has a cult following in Australia, even if it is a little weird we’re in it. It’s just a chance to dress up, sing silly songs and get drunk."
*It is not possible to vote for your own country's entrant.
Albero Augusto, Colombia
"I've seen the UK’s entry – I like the lyrics, it’s a fun song.
"[When it comes to the UK as a whole], you know the stereotypes: we think about the monarchy, the parliamentary system, the British sense of humour. You have a dark sense of humour – you’re very sarcastic. I would like to come and be a tourist, but I’ll come when you host Eurovision."